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Walk Down the SEF's Lane

Saloni Senapaty

Associate, Principal & Community Development, Centres of Excellence, Delhi

As Simple Education Foundation (SEF) turns ten on 16th December 2023, I took a trip down memory lane to recollect some of my most enjoyable memories. In the last year and a half, I have been working in the domain of school leadership with the Centers of Excellence Program (Government Partner School Project). During this time, I have faced a lot of challenges that have left me questioning myself. But you keep going when you have a team that constantly fuels you with hope, love, learning, and fun! 

Here are some of those (several) leading moments at SEF!  

'Simple’ Way of Being

Being in the field leads to creating and experiencing a lot of moments of awe, frustration (too), fondness, etc. A memorable moment that I will always cherish is when one of the principals from the Partner Schools retired. She shared her gratitude for SEF by sharing how the ‘simple’ act of asking, ‘How are you doing?’ made her feel acknowledged and aware of her surroundings/ self. It made me realize how being and interacting with others could create an impact and model a healthy and happy presence for our educators and children. 

Testimony for Safe Spaces 

At SEF, we believe building strong relationships and creating safe spaces are important for learning. One of the teachers at our Partner Schools with whom we didn’t work closely shared her ease and comfort at being observed by the team. During a data conversation with the same teacher, we discussed the FLN learning levels of the children in her classroom. We contextualized the conversation to ensure a meaningful dialogue anchored in children's needs. The teacher remained hopeful and positive about the children and said, “Bacche kar lenge!” which also provided me with strong feedback and re-instated our hope for children's growth and the teachers' commitment.

Saloni with a School Leader

Discovery of Harmony and Its Value 

SEF Team members (L) Shruti and (R) Saloni at the Annual Learning Festival

One of the core memories that surrounds me with a sense of ‘belongingness’ is from an internal training session in 2022. We were facilitating skill building for ‘Journey Mapping,’ which is important for planning on-ground interventions anchored in the journey of the stakeholder.  In the session, I experienced a moment of synchronicity with my manager, Shruti, when we both responded to a question together. This harmonious moment sparked a sense of connection between Shruti and me, and since then, #harmony has become our connecting value. A value that we uphold in our interactions with our stakeholders.

Community-building through Fundraising

SEF’s crowdfunding campaign, ‘Runway of Hope,’ which has been running for the past 3 years, also became a part of this repository. For the 2022 campaign edition, I reached out to people I had not engaged with in years. Overcoming my hesitation to share my work, I reconnected with my school classmates from over a decade ago, recalling a classroom experience with our Grade 10 teacher that left us all in awe. This shared memory kindled a connection between all of us, wherein many of my classmates started engaging in the group. They shared stories and also contributed to the campaign, thereby building a larger community of people who believe in the need for children to have champions in their schools and lives.

Communicating our work on SEF Day 

Another one of my favorite memories is SEF Day 2022, where each program and vertical set up stalls that gave a glimpse of the work that we are doing to the participants, including family and friends, through experiential activities. Not only was this fun and interesting, but it also gave me a chance to better understand my work and communicate it with a diverse audience.

Saloni at the Principal Development Stall at SEF Day 2022

Laughing out Loud at Work!

This was followed by the release of a video called 'Tu Banega Learner' for SEF's Learning Festival. Our team members came together to do a parody of a reality TV show (you can guess the show by the video's title) to share our values and the theme of the event. It always brings a laugh to my face and a deep appreciation for our team’s antics to keep us entertained and things lively. When I first saw the video, I laughed so hard that people in the metro looked at me like I had gone crazy. SEF should start a curriculum on “How to make learning fun!” 

The COE Delhi team during a Math Training Session

When Mother met SEF

During the Learning Festival 2023, my mother was visiting me, so she was also invited to be a part of the sessions. While she was initially nervous about being a part of this, within minutes, she felt excited and got so involved and included! She felt comfortable having met the team and had an opportunity to see me in action, filling her with a sense of pride and confidence about the work that I was doing. 

Saloni's Mother is getting ready to do an energizer with the SEF Team

Dance it off!

When the going gets tough, the team takes a moment to pause and dance it off! At SEF, we all love a good movement activity to destress. In November 2023, when schools abruptly closed owing to the high pollution levels, we decided to leverage that time to engage in an act of well-being - a DANCE FITNESS SESSION! Choosing to focus on our well-being as a team not only helps us destress but also enables team building. 

Each of these memories, in some way or another, represents the three core factors that fill me with gratitude to have started the early years of my career with SEF - the team, the work, and the values. I feel proud and honored to be in the first ten seasons of SEF’s story and look forward to being a part of and creating even more such seasons toward our mission. 

Saloni Senapaty is a Principal and Community Development Associate at Delhi's Government Partner School; you can reach out to her here

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